Live From Jerusalem
BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another brutal and bloody day in the West Bank. Meanwhile, Colin Powell says he will meet with Yasser Arafat. Israel says it won't even talk to the Palestinian leader. Will anything get done this weekend? We'll look at that and more. I'm Bill Hemmer. LIVE FROM JERUSALEM begins now.
HEMMER: Earlier today in Cairo, Egypt, the Secretary of State Colin Powell once again said he will meet with Yasser Arafat when he arrives here in Jerusalem later in the week.
Israel has said that it will not talk with the Palestinian Leader. Earlier it called Yasser Arafat irrelevant. There are questions now. Yasser Arafat still inside that besieged compound in Ramallah.
He's been there now for 12 days running with tanks and troops outside from the Israeli side. March 29th, the date where Yasser Arafat was surrounded. How relevant then is he? Let's talk about that with two guests tonight.
First, Daniel Pipes is our guest from Seattle, editor of the Middle East Forum. And, also from Washington tonight, Mark Perry is our guest. He's a Washington correspondent for "The Palestine Report."
Gentlemen, good to see you all tonight, and thank you for coming on. It's 3:30 here in Jerusalem. It's 8:30 in Washington and 5:30 in Seattle. We're crossing a lot of time zones this evening.
Mark, first to you. Colin Powell, we are told, will tell under no uncertain terms to Yasser Arafat that he must publicly in English and in Arabic denounce terrorism. Is he ready to do that, Mark?
MARK PERRY, "THE PALESTINE REPORT": I don't know for sure, but I think that he ought to be ready to do so. Clearly, the bombings in Israel are not defensible. The bombings in Israel take innocent lives. We've seen that today in the West Bank.
I think Mr. Arafat should step up to the line. He should denounce terrorism. He should denounce the targeting of innocent civilians, but I think he also has to tell Mr. Powell that he needs a political horizon, some political hope for his people, a political program, and I hope that Colin Powell arrives with such a political program.
HEMMER: Here's what I want to know from you, Mark, before I go to Daniel. It has been my observation here in the Middle East that it's very difficult for these two leaders to truly admit in their hearts that they want peace for their own people. First to you, Mark on Yasser Arafat. Do you think he has that in his heart to do that?
PERRY: I think he does. He almost signed a peace agreement in Taba (ph) two years ago. He didn't get control of his own borders or his own resources and he really-he turned away from it.
We had Ariel Sharon marching on the Temple Mount. I think that in the end, he knows that the vision for peace includes a Palestinian State. You're not going to get there by suicide bombing, and you're not going to get there by having the Israelis invade the West Bank. There has to be some political hope and there has to be a program on the table.
HEMMER: Yes, there's truly a scenario to this developing in the Middle East that's quite confounding if you really want to look at it, Daniel. Israel says it won't even talk to Yasser Arafat. Colin Powell will. What's the net outcome of this meeting this weekend, if one side says forget it, you're off our table, and the U.S. is coming here and saying essentially here's one more chance for you.
DANIEL PIPES, MIDDLE EAST FORUM: Big fat zero. Nothing's going to come of it. I'd bet my mortgage on it. I can't see how anything will come of this, Bill, because the whole structure of these talks is essentially irrelevant. There is a war taking place.
For the last half hour, we've been hearing the details of it, dead here, dead there. I just reckon that the number of Israelis killed in the last 16 or year and a half has been two-thirds of that that were killed in the 1967 war. This is war.
So somebody comes wandering in with a peace negotiating plan, diplomatic initiative. Nobody pays attention to him. Now, since he's Secretary Powell, he gets everyone's respect. Everyone welcomes him, but it's completely irrelevant.
HEMMER: If that's the case then, if the net effect is zero, where does Israel hope to go at this point then, given the fact that the Palestinians say Yasser Arafat is the only address in the Palestinian world today?
PIPES: What I'm saying is, it is a war, and the Israelis have their aspirations for the war and the Palestinians have theirs. The Israeli aspiration clearly is to signal to the Palestinians that the use of force is not going to work, and that it's going to be counterproductive - so stop it.
The Palestinian aspiration is to demoralize the Israelis, and as is clear from all that's coming out of the mosques and the media and the Palestinian Authority and elsewhere, to eliminate Israel, destroy Israel. So, you've got a war.
HEMMER: I guess the point of my question, the area to where I was going was, if Yasser Arafat is not the man that Israel will talk to, then who is? And perhaps, Mark, you can answer that question for us. Is Yasser Arafat serving his people in the best interest of the Palestinians right now, or is there someone else there that has not come to the surface that we need to start paying attention to?
PERRY: Well, I understand the importance of your question, but it's not a question that I can answer or Daniel Pipes can answer or anyone else can answer, certainly the Israelis or the Americans. This is a question that the Palestinian people need to answer.
The truth of the matter is that Yasser Arafat is now more popular in the Palestinian Authority than ever before. He is the elected leader of the Palestinian Authority. The United States should not be in the business of replacing national leaders. We should be able to negotiate with the leaders that are there.
Certainly, Mr. Arafat has proven to be a very capable leader of his people. He is an elected leader of the Palestinian people. Mr. Powell has said that he's going to meet him. I think that's a good decision. There is no one else there to deal with. We have to deal with the facts, the political facts. He is a political fact.
PIPES: Bill, may I take another crack at it?
HEMMER: If that's the case - yes, you sure can, Daniel, go ahead.
PIPES: My position would be that just as we didn't seek out someone to negotiate in the Taliban regime and we're not looking for someone in Saddam Hussein's regime, we shouldn't be looking for someone in this failed, corrupt, aggressive Palestinian Authority. We got to start over again, just as we did in Afghanistan, and presumably will be doing in Iraq. This is a terrorist outfit that has to be done away with.
PERRY: It's not up to us. It's not up to us to choose.
HEMMER: I'm running out of time here, Daniel. I want to get back to Mark in a second here. But in the interest of fairness, Daniel do you believe Ariel Sharon in his heart has the ability to say to the Jewish people here in Israel, the Palestinians are OK after all?
PIPES: Once the Palestinians show over a period of time that they're willing to coexist in harmony with Israel, for sure, but that's not the case unfortunately.
HEMMER: Mark Perry, final word here before we have to wrap this up.
PERRY: There was a chance for peace three or four years ago when Yitzak Rabin was the Prime Minister of Israel and he reached across the table in a gesture of peace to Yasser Arafat, and Yasser Arafat responded, and we didn't have terrorism against Israelis. We had Israelis and Palestinians working together for peace.
The extremist here is not Yasser Arafat. It's Ariel Sharon. The depredations that are going on right now are being conducted by the Israelis. What the United States has to do is reengage in this conflict, separate the two sides, stop the terrorist bombings and stop the violence. If Colin Powell can do that, we've made some progress.
HEMMER: And we shall all see that possibly through the weekend, depending on how long Colin Powell stays in the area. One Israeli government source earlier today told me that what the place needs is a babysitter, much like Warren Christopher or Henry Kissinger has done over the past several decades. We will see if Colin Powell can fit that bill this weekend. Thanks to my guests, Daniel Pipes in Seattle, Mark Perry in Washington, D.C.
PERRY: Thank you.
HEMMER: I don't know if we moved the ball very much for you, but it's been a very difficult struggle certainly on the ground and you men know it just about as well as anyone. Gentlemen, thanks again.
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